Dad launched our boat early on a Saturday morning in June at the public ramp in Cocoa Beach, and by late afternoon we docked at our overnight destination, Vero Beach. For a couple of teenaged boys, the day had been a most excellent adventure. Dad had masterfully piloted the boat south while our neighbor, Bob Boyle, took pictures of the birds of the inland waterway for Life magazine.
While Dad tied up the boat and arranged to have it refueled and docked for the night, my brother and I headed up the pier into town to find some ice cream. Vero Beach in 1966 was small and quaint, and we couldn’t help but notice an interesting shop that was only open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. We entered on a whim but were immediately rewarded by the sight of a magnificent array of unusual items. A pleasant woman welcomed us and asked if we were looking for anything special. When we advised her that we were from out of town and would head home the next day, she invited us to examine and enjoy the items in her shop and said, “Each piece tells a story.”
As we strolled through the small store, it seemed that the painted eyes of a sculpture of a beautiful Polynesian girl followed me wherever I went. As I admired the piece, the shopkeeper commented it was a memento from her honeymoon many years ago. But when I asked its price, I was disappointed to learn that it cost fifteen dollars which was ten dollars more than I had.
About that time a lady burst into the shop exclaiming that she had to have a wedding gift right away, but before the shopkeeper could respond, the lady’s eyes focused on the lovely sculpture in my hands. She took it from me, put it on the counter and said, “I’ll take this.” Imagine my surprise when the woman behind the counter said, “I’m sorry, but it’s already been sold.”
After the lady stormed out in a huff, I reminded the shopkeeper that I only had five dollars and asked why she hadn’t sold her the sculpture. She advised me that the rude woman was a local and that she didn’t care to sell her any treasures. “You see,” she said, “The items in this shop are the collections of my lifetime. I don’t have to sell any of them, but I enjoy spending a few hours each week meeting folks who appreciate them and can offer them a loving home.”
Fifty-four years later, that sculpture still adorns my study and remains a constant reminder, not only of that great summer adventure with my older brother, but of the generosity of spirit of that shopkeeper. It’s an important lesson in life, I believe, that kind-heartedness and courtesy never go out of style.
A dental office can’t survive being open two afternoons a week, but it can thrive when we treat our patients with an attitude of abundance. For us, as it was for the owner of a very special shop in Vero Beach in the mid-Sixties, it’s not about the sale. It’s about relationships. Build valued relationships with your patients, serve them with honesty, integrity, and compassion, and you and your team can provide outstanding care for the people who appreciate you. All the best.
“You can be rich in spirit, kindness, love,
and all those things that you can’t put a dollar sign on.”